Martin Luther King wrote this letter when he was incarcerated in Birmingham jail in 1963 (King 78). It was a response to eight clergymen with white descent who believed Martin’s nonviolent campaign was premature and ill-intentioned against the white people (King 79). Martin Luther’s big part of the letter showed that he was an influential and respected member of the society, especially during the 1960s when there was a lot of racial turmoil in the U.S (King 81). The ultimate goal of the letter was to show injustices committed against the black community. Martin Luther Jr. used the letter to explain his position and intention to the eight clergymen who had criticized his nonviolent movement for social justice. The letter contained Martin Luther King’s vision of a new millennium where people are not judged by their color but by the content of their character in the society (King 83). The letter explains that the key to American greatness depends on social equality.
It is also important to realize that Martin Luther’s letter was written at a period of racial hatred and segregation, but it still contains the element of love, hope, and faith (King 84). The people did not realize the greatness of Martin’s letter because society was full of hatred and segregation. However, the letter was still crucial in shaping the direction of society against racial discrimination and hatred. For instance, Martin Luther’s letter encouraged oppressed blacks to rise and fight for social justice and equality in society (King 86). The letter contains the theme of faith, civil disobedience and the use of nonviolence in the fight against injustices in the society. The letter defends the nonviolent movement under the leadership of Martin Luther Jr. as the only way to kick start the healing process (King 87). The nonviolent activity was the only way to protest against racial inequality while also promoting social change in society.
Martin Luther’s letter represents his turbulent past with racial discrimination in America. King was later released from prison within four days after penning the letter (King 254). However, after he was released from jail, he delivered a sermon at the 16th Baptist Church in Birmingham (King 255). The lecture openly showed his frustration against the moderate whites who consistently told the black people that time was not right to champion their rights. As a consequence of this sermon, school going children skipped going to school to participate in the children crusade against racial discrimination (King 256). During this protest, the police used massive brutality to quell the protesters. The situation became so sad because so many people were injured, arrested and incarcerated.
The letter still resonates with so many people around the world. The Kings letter is today part of the numerous schools’ curriculum in the U.S (King 257). It has also been translated into many languages across the globe to urge the religious community to step in on matters of economic inequality, racial and social injustices (King 257). The Birmingham letter as was written by Martin Luther implies that the fight against inequality lies in the hope and appeal that it offers to the oppressed people in society (King 258). The letter exposes the inexpressible brutality as well as shameful humiliation that the black people had to undergo even long after the end of slavery in the country. The Letter also shows the advantages of faith, courage, and leadership at the most trying times. The letter provided an opportunity for the galvanization of the civil rights movement against social injustices and inequality in society.
Martin Luther King’s letter still very much connects to current events around the world (King 259). For instance, the contents of the letter especially the parts that encourage people to stand up for their rights and fight social injustices has been used by many African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka to denounce authoritarianism and also become ardent advocates for social justice in the society (King 259). The argument of Martin Luther King still applies so much to the injustices happening in many places around the world. For instance, recently, Khashoggi was brutally murdered by Saudi intelligence officers after he courageous questioned the role of the Saudi crown prince role in Syria war (King 260). Numerous injustices are happening everywhere around the world that needs the courage to condemn. The letter has a strong sense of timelessness because it continues to inform most of the historical events taking place in American and around the world (King 264). For instance, without the letter and actions of Martin Luther King, American people wouldn’t have had the first black president, Barrack Obama.
King, Martin Luther, and C. T. Vivian. “Letter from Birmingham jail.” Arguing about the law (2013): 254-264.
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham jail.” The Atlantic Monthly: August 1963; The Negro is Your Brother: Volume 212, No 2: Pages 78-88.